Maintaining mental health at the workplace more than chasing away a bad case of the “Mondays”. The average American spends roughly one-third of their life at work, and although nearly every employee can identify with the standard weekday morning blues and dragging feet, negative work environments can lead to more significant mental health issues or exacerbate existing conditions.
If you find yourself feeling exhausted or mentally distant at the workplace, you’re not alone - the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially classified workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon. The WHO classifies burnout by feelings of exhaustion, increased mental distance and negative thoughts related to one’s job and reduced professional efficiency, a growing epidemic amongst stressed workers. While steady work may be considered beneficial to mental health, a negative work environment can lead to exacerbation of mental health problems, the most common being depression and anxiety disorder.
Bad Habits of Office Culture
According to a WHO-led study, an estimated $1 trillion is lost each year in productivity in the global economy due to depression and anxiety in the workplace. Listed risks to mental health include inadequate health policies, poor communication and management, limited control in decision-making, low support levels for employees, inflexible working hours and unclear objectives. Excessive corporate demand encourages tight deadlines, increased working paces, unnecessary competition and climates of threat, corporate tactics to foster paranoia, stress and adrenaline, resulting in a toxic work environment that can significantly impact daily mental health.
In the battle against stress and burnout, many employees are also now turning to unhealthy habits to cope. In a national survey, 34% of respondents increased their caffeine intake while others reached for sugar, alcohol, sleeping pills and more to fight their growing anxiety. Ignored or unaddressed workplace depression, anxiety and burnout can affect excessive stress, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, substance misuse, heart disease, high blood pressure and more, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Smart Habits to Support Yourself in The Workplace
An important factor in achieving a healthy workplace environment for mental health is the development of smart personal habits. Before reaching for another cup of coffee to relieve your stress, consider planning 30-minute daily workouts before or after work. The goal is to sit less and move more, so simple changes such as hourly stretching, taking the stairs and walking a lap around the office can combat stress and promote stronger mental health.
Be sure to disconnect from your daily demands and unplug from work as soon as you’re home for a mental recharge, and work to plan ahead for a potentially difficult day to protect your mental health. Furthermore, wellness programs can positively influence the culture at work, so practice open communication with your company to increase the availability of community-building programs. Seek support among co-workers and loved ones, explore stress-relieving activities such as yoga and meditation, focus on sleep restoration and practice mindfulness in the workplace setting.
Benefits of Healthy Corporate Habits
A healthy workplace environment is one where employees feel both valued and supported, creating a mutually beneficial relationship – a recent World Health Organization study estimated that for every dollar invested in treatment for workplace mental disorders, there is a return of roughly $4 in improved health and productivity. The Shaw Mind Foundation, a supporter of mental health at work, suggests that there are small changes that any business can make to improve employee wellbeing including enforcing work hours, avoiding employee isolation, setting attainable deadlines, spreading equal workloads, providing support services and promoting healthy eating and exercise. Additionally, Mental Health America also recommends that wellness-forward workplaces should also provide a clean, well-lit space, a livable wage, reasonable health accommodations, work/life balance activities and plenty of open communication between management and employees.
When your job is stressful, it can feel as if it is taking over your life. Maintain awareness of your mental health in the workplace, practice healthy habits to combat workplace anxiety, depression and burnout, and encourage the corporate responsibility of your company in providing proper programs to support employees. If none of these steps relieves your stress or symptoms, consult a mental health provider to learn effective ways of handling stress.
- C. Fogarty